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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Die Videogame industry, Die! Part 1 - MarioKart Wii

Part 1 of a 10 part series about why I want the video game industry to implode, causing massive layoffs & putting most devs out of business so that the industry can come back much better than it currently is.

I've been playing Mario Kart Wii for awhile, and I have to say.... it's one of the most overrated games ever. There are things to like about the game, but there are so many things about it that makes it crap.

It's so incredibly cheap. How fun is it to randomly be knocked from 1st to 12th right at the end of a race, when there is nothing you can do about it? It takes the choice away from the player & leaves it up to just dumb luck.

The number of races is obscenely small. There's supposedly "32 stages". What it REALLY is is there are 8 Grand Prix races, each consisting of 4 races. Same diff, right? Wrong. Those 4 races can only be raced in a Grand Prix, so once you pick one, not only do you have to race all 4, but in that order. So in reality it feels more like only 8 actual races are available to choose from. 8 races? In any other racing game, who'd think that was enough variety?

Checking out the reviews for it, overall it gets glowing ratings. But if you actually read most of the reviews, they basically go like this: "Mario Kart Wii is one of the best racing games ever because... because I've loved the Mario Kart franchise since [insert whatever old Nintendo system here] that's why!!" What does any past Mario Kart game have to do with THIS one, that's no way to judge this game, it should be evaluated on its own merits alone.

This comes to the crux of why the video game industry, as it is, needs to basically die off: There's so many mediocre/crap games where the developers/publishers rely on past franchise success, and they sleepwalk their way through each iteration of the franchise. Mario Kart Wii is such a conservative game. It's the first Mario Kart game I've played, but has it changed/added ANYTHING of note since past versions? I doubt it-- it doesn't take the slightest bit of risk with the formula.

There are some advantages to that; the core gameplay is what people enjoy, so why mess with it.... except sequel games should improve on past versions. And the Wii wheel control seems fairly well tweaked, they must've spent a lot of time working on making it a smooth experience.

Mario Kart Wii should be an experience that a new gamer can come into, without having to rely on nostalgia for past versions, and enjoy the current game as is, on its own. But the price they charge for it compared to the content makes it a rip-off. Nintendo first party games hardly ever drop in price, even years after they first come out. Add to that the idiot reviewers & so-called "hardcore gamers" that allow companies to coast their way through latest versions of franchise games because they're too busy tripping over themselves remembering their nostalgic childhood/adolescence experience to do their jobs.


PSP - Matthew Good Live at Massey Hall

So I picked up Matthew Good Live at Massey Hall today at Wal-Mart. I was surprised it was there, and that it was a lot cheaper than what I thought was the cheapest price at Future Shop-- $15.00 for the 2 CD set. Comparted to $17.00 at HMV. But at Wal-Mart it was less than $13.00! Nice! If Future Shop hadn't been out of stock, I'd have missed out on some (admittedly, small) savings. Still, savings is savings, y'know?

As soon as I had a chance, I finally got home & ripped the 2 CDs into mp3 format to put on my PSP and Sandisk Sansa E280 8GB mp3 player. What I really like about listening to music on my PSP is that it's nearly gapless playback, which is usually important for live albums, and usually VERY important for Pink Floyd albums. There is a SLIGHT gap, but normally it's so small as to be unnoticible by me unless I'm looking for it. My E280, while it's a more dedicated music player, put a lot more of a gap between songs. It actually wrecks listening to Floyd songs, which is a real downer.

As I was transferring the files to my PSP, I was thinking, the last few CDs I bought (I don't buy very much music because there are few albums I consider worth it) I actually haven't listened to them as CDs... that is, popped the CD in a CD player & listened to them that way. It's weird, but it's just so convenient to listen to them as mp3 files. So why do I buy CDs at all? Because I know that my CDs won't just stop working one day out of the blue for no reason at all. DRM files that have no physical copies only work at the whim of the "license holder", like Sony DRM games I paid REAL money for that one day decided to stop working on my PSP. Buying non-physical download-only content from incompetent sellers like Sony or iTunes is just like burning your money in the fireplace. It's only a matter of time, but you WILL be burned by them screwing up & not working.

PSP volume is one of the biggest drawbacks for it as a music player, like many Sony players, it's not very loud. The sound quality is pretty good though. There are other problems with PSP music features, like lack of on-the-go playlist. And it's big & bulky. Honestly I use my E280 a lot more when I'm out. But add the other media functions to the picture, and the PSP is still a great all-in-one device.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Atari Classics Evolved

I haven't been playing too many games lately, but the other day I picked up my old copy of Atari Classics Evolved & popped that into my PSP for some quick pick up & play sessions.

It is a compilation of some of the Atari arcade games: Missile Command, Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Centipede, Millipede, Pong, Super Breakout, Lunar Lander, Tempest, Warlords. There are unlockable Atari 2600 games too.


+The classic games are well reproduced, some games like Centipede/Millipede & Tempest play with the PSP tilted sideways to take advantage of the wide screen.

+The Evolved versions are really nice modernizations of the Classics.

+Unlockable Atari 2600 games (50?!)


-All the games are STUPID STUPID HARD. (Evolved versions are a little easier.)

-Pong, Super Breakout are just plain broken.

-You have to unlock *ALL* the awards to be able to unlock the Atari 2600 games. It's nearly impossible to unlock them all. It should've been a series of unlockables.

-Load times are 15 seconds, which is longer than it should be for what this is.

As said, this is a great pick up & play collection. Each game is so freakin' hard, though, that it's usually a series of play, die in 3 mins, restart, repeat.... but if you can live with that, and don't want to play a campaign that takes hours to accomplish to a point where you can take a break, then this game is for you. The loading times are a bit long though, if you're switching from game to game. If you replay the same game, it starts up quickly enough.

The Classic games are still in the squarish 4:3 tv screen format, so there is "empty space" filled up by some design junk at the sides of the PSP screen. This is unfortunate because it's a small playing field as it is-- remember, these games were originally played on huge arcade cabinets-- so it would've been nice if they could've used the screen real estate more efficiently... but I guess it's better than stretching it....

The Evolved versions of the games are generally really good. They mostly use the widescreen format of the PSP screen, which is great.

Overall, this is a minigame collection that appeals to people (like me) who are nostalgic for these old Atari "quarter-eaters". It's not an essential addition to the average gamer's library, but if you're into it, and see it at a good price (MSRP was $20.00, so even that's a pretty good price.) it's worth picking up.

Atari Classics Evolved Gamespot trailer:


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Firefox 3 update

So the other day, my Firefox 3 updated.... added a bunch of security improvements... probably a couple weeks too late as I was infected with more viruses recently. My comp looks clean, but......

One thing I noticed with this latest update is after it's done, they load up a page talking about how Firefox is really reliable security-wise... I can't remember the URL, but it also displayed a graph showing in 2006 that Firefox had much less vulnerabilites than IE.

Yeah. That's great. I wouldn't be surprised if that was true.... IN 2006. But Firefox 3 just seems really flawed. They made so many changes to it, that I wonder if they didn't leave HUGE holes in it, otherwise, why this new page trying to reassure us that it's "all good"? there could be the threat of Google's browser, Chrome, but I think that's still in Beta form. I've been trying to find out if Firefox 3 is really flawed, but I haven't found much other than news reports from back in June, probably when it was first released. I wonder if many others have found their infection rate skyrocketing....